What is Half and Half? And What’s a Substitute For It?
We all know where to get half and half: next to the cream and milk in the dairy aisle. But do you know what half and half actually is? Why it’s called half and half? Is there a substitute for half and half? It’s confusing! We untangle all the info for you.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
Half and half: you use it coffee, sometimes you need it in a recipe, you can use it to make ice cream and it makes a great custard when paired with eggs. But what is half and half? What is a good substitute for half and half when it’s not in the fridge? Read on to learn how to use it, how to make it and other fun facts about half and half.
What Is Half and Half?
The actual description of what half and half is falls under the auspices of the FDA. Which makes sense, because Food is the first word in Food and Drug Administration, so all dairies that produce half and half must follow the guidelines. Half and half is simply a mixture of equal parts whole milk and cream. That’s it. If you wanted to go further down the half and half rabbit hole, you would learn that the percentage of fat in whole milk is only 3.25%. The percentage of fat in half and half varies between 10.5% and 18%. Why? Because cream can be 36% to 40% fat. When mixing the two together, you get a different percentage of fat depending on the cream you use. Anything labeled half and half at the store will be fine for any recipe you need it for.
What Is a Substitute for Half and Half?
Since we now know that half and half is equal parts milk and cream, we can make a substitute. Get a liquid measuring cup, fill it to the 1/2 cup line with whole milk and then add heavy cream to the 1 cup line. You just made a substitute for half and half.
All About Half and Half
There are a lot of questions floating around about half and half. We have lots of answers.
Can half and half be used instead of heavy cream?
In a recipe for a custard, yes. If you’re looking for whipped cream to top a sundae, no: half and half doesn’t have enough fat to whip and hold peaks.
Can you boil half and half?
No: there isn’t enough fat for the mixture to stay homogenized, and you’ll end up with curdles. It’s best to add the half and half as the last ingredient when your soup or sauce is finished. Then heat it gradually to a simmer to ensure that the half and half doesn’t curdle.
Where did half and half come from?
There actually was a time when half and half wasn’t something you’d buy at the store. In fact, in the 1920s, half and half was a proprietary product of Boutwell Dairy in Lake Worth Beach, Florida. The owner, William A. Boutwell, invented half and half by mixing milk and cream. Eventually, it caught on, and other companies started making it. And the rest is history.
Half and Half Recipes
Fresh clams, bacon, potato - everything you want in a rich and creamy clam chowder where the creamy ingredient is half and half. This recipe uses exactly one pint, no measuring required. So much easier than mixing milk and cream.
This isn’t just mac and cheese with sausage, it’s mac and cheese with sausage and peppers. Half and half, cream cheese and cheddar come together to make the creamiest sauce ever.
We call this luscious dessert a cobbler, but the topping is really biscuits dropped over the top before it’s baked. And biscuit is just a not-very-fancy name for shortcake. So this could just as easily be called skillet strawberry shortcake.
In truth, adding caramelized onions to just about any savory dish will make it better. Here they’re in a breakfast strata, or as it could be called, a savory bread pudding, since it has all the ingredients a bread pudding would have. Using sourdough bread ensures an even more savory dish.
Panna Cotta is an Italian chilled dairy dessert that’s always an elegant presentation. It’s not a pudding because it doesn’t have eggs and it isn’t cooked: Panna cotta sets with unflavored gelatin. This recipe combines half and half and buttermilk for creamy-tangy results. The fresh cherry compote is a perfect sweet topping, but you could always improvise with your favorite fruit.
Renee Comet, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Who doesn’t love a classic casserole dish you can make ahead, especially when you’re having the entire extended family for a holiday dinner? This green bean casserole is made with only fresh ingredients. (OK, one from a can, because you can’t have green bean casserole without those fried onions.)
These mashed potatoes are elevated with feta, half and half, butter and sour cream. Everything goes in the oven in a casserole so you can have all the burners on the stove free for the rest of your dinner.